He was serving as a volunteer firefighter for the city at a time when the fire department needed a new firetruck, and he figured getting on the council would be a way to push the cause. “I got volunteered to run for city council and got elected, and before I was done I think we got two new fire trucks,” he said.
Similarly, becoming a member of the U.S. House is not a lifelong ambition. “This has not been a dream of mine on the bucket list,” he said.
But after U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, the current 1st District representative, announced he wouldn’t seek reelection, and after supporters suggested he vie for the seat given his familiarity with Hill Air Force Base, Stevenson gave it some thought. The area needs someone in the U.S. House intimately familiar with the base, a key U.S. defense facility and economic engine for Northern Utah, they told him. Stevenson, currently a Davis County commissioner, ultimately joined the fray, and he finds himself jockeying for support as the June 30 Republican primary nears with three other GOPers, Kerry Gibson, Katie Witt and Blake Moore.
Hill Air Force Base, which abuts Layton, Stevenson’s hometown, figures big in his bid, and it’s one of the first things he brings up in explaining his candidacy. As mayor of Layton, he served on many civic bodies that coordinated with Hill, and protecting it as a defense asset and as a prime element of the area economy would be top on his priority list as congressman.
“I’ve not only learned the importance of the military and how the military works, I’ve also learned and understand the economics that go along with this,” he said, seated in his county commission office at the Davis County Administration Building in Farmington.
He also cites his roots in the area and what he believes is a belief system that meshes well with the region. Stevenson, a retired manager with Nestle, the chocolate company, served 10 years on the Layton City Council in the 1980s and early 1990s, was Layton mayor from 2014 through 2018 and became county commissioner in 2019.
“We have Utah values,” Stevenson said. “We have the conservative Northern Utah values. We believe in hard work. We believe in service. We believe in helping others.”
Notwithstanding his years in elective public office and his current bid for a federal post, he maintains that his involvement has been about service, not political ambition, echoing the rationale that pushed him into that City Council race back in 1981. “There was no grand plan as far as that goes. We have not been a career politician,” he said.
The 1st District covers northern Davis County, including Layton, Weber County and eight other northern and northeastern Utah counties.
‘LEARN TO GET
His beliefs aside, Stevens says his experience in business, some 30 years with Nestle, and his leadership roles in Layton and Davis County set him apart from the other hopefuls. Witt serves as mayor of Kaysville, Moore is a management consultant in Salt Lake City and Gibson is a former Utah House member and Weber County commissioner.
“Serving as a mayor, you learn to get things done. ... You learn you have to work with people and make things happen as far as that goes,” Stevenson said. “You can’t have all those experiences and not learn things.”
Among specific accomplishments, he points to two reductions in property taxes in Layton during his tenure as mayor and his push to promote business growth. Efforts to lure in business while he was mayor resulted in a 20% bump in the city’s sales tax revenue inflows, Stevenson said, from $13.3 million when he started to $16 million when he left office.
In his short tenure so far as Davis County commissioner, he cited efforts to increase cooperation with Weber County leaders, exemplified by the decision by officials in the counties to create a two-county economic development body. The aim of the Northern Utah Economic Alliance, as it’s known, is to market the two counties as a unified region in promoting business growth and luring new business.
“This is part of an attitude that we’ve tried to put in place of working with people, realizing there’s always two sides of the story, but we can come together in common ground,” he said.
Stevenson shied from directly commenting on the others in the race, preferring to focus on what he says are his attributes. “There’s not another candidate that’s had the experience that I’ve had,” he said.
Still, without calling anyone out specifically, he stressed what he believes to be the import of living in the 1st District if you’re the 1st District representative. Except for Moore, who lives outside the 1st District in Salt Lake City, all the candidates live inside the district. Though no longer living there, Moore grew up in Ogden, inside the district.
“I do believe it’s important that you live within this district. I will say that. You can’t understand and know the inner workings of what goes on in the district if you never lived in the district or if you haven’t lived in this district for the past 20 years,” he said.